After weeks of tumult, testimony, and a supplemental FBI investigation, the Senate voted to advance Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday, paving the way for a full vote as early as Saturday.
The procedural cloture vote, which ended floor debate on the nominee, passed the Senate with a 51-49 tally.
All Democratic senators, except Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, voted against Kavanaugh’s nomination advancing, while all Republican senators voted for the nominee, except for Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Murkowski had been receiving pressure from Alaska Native organizations, a key constituency, to oppose Kavanaugh.
The crossing of a cloture vote threshold set up a final vote on the nominee, which is expected to take place on Saturday evening.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa spoke in favor of Kavanaugh in advance of Friday’s vote.
“This should have been a respectable and dignified confirmation process,” Grassley said. “In a previous era this highly qualified nominee would have received unanimous support in the Senate.”
Reagan appointees Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy — whom Kavanaugh has been nominated to replace — all received unanimous consent in the 1980s, while Clinton appointee Ruth Bader Ginsburg was approved by the Senate with a 96 to 3 vote in 1993.
Democratic Judiciary ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said of Kavanaugh in advance of Thursday’s vote, “Never before have we had a nominee display such flagrant partisanship and open hostility at a hearing.”
“And never before have we had a nominee facing allegation of sexual assault,” she added.
Feinstein went on to list her concerns about Kavanaugh being a crucial swing vote who could roll back the controversial Roe. v. Wade decision and vote to keep current Second Amendment protections in place.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said, “From start to finish, President Trump’s nomination of Judge Bret Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court will go down as one of the saddest, most sordid chapters in the long history of the federal judiciary.”
Schumer hit Trump for picking Kavanaugh from a list of judges approved by “hard right interest groups.”
The minority leader contended that “the dam broke under the weight of credible allegations that Judge Kavanaugh committed a sexual assault in high school.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was the final senator to speak before the cloture vote, argued the chamber could either affirm the presumption of innocence in America or communicate that partisan politics overrides all.
“We’ll either state that facts and evidence can simply be brushed aside when politically inconvenient and signal that media bullying and mob intimidation are valid tactics for shaping the Senate,” McConnell said, adding, “or we’ll stand up and say that serious, thoughtful fact-based deliberation will still define this body.”
“Facts matter, fairness matters, the presumption of innocence is sacrosanct,” he said further. “The Senate has turned its back on these things before, but never for long and never without deep regret. This institution does not look back proudly on the era of Joseph McCarthy when the politics of personal destruction poisoned its judgment.”
While Collins voted for cloture, the lawmaker said she would announce her decision whether she will vote to confirm Friday afternoon.
GOP Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who voted for cloture, told CNN he will not be available for a Saturday vote, because he will be walking is daughter down the aisle at her wedding.
He said the soonest he could be back in Washington is early Sunday morning, which may mean the final vote will be delayed until his return.
Kavanaugh can be confirmed if 50 senators vote in favor, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.
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